UN Rights Body Needs to Act on Ethiopia

Human Rights Council Should Adopt Resolution on Abuses in Tigray

Lucy McKernan, United Nations Deputy Director, Advocacy, July 9, 2021

Ethiopia Tigray
Tigrinyan refugee women prepare bread for their family in Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan on December 11, 2020 © 2020 Nariman El-Mofty/AP Images

As reports of grave rights abuses continue to emerge from the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the United Nations Human Rights Council is considering a resolution to add Tigray to its agenda. It should do so immediately.

Communities in Tigray have suffered months of atrocities, which UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the opening of the Human Rights Council’s current session, the high commissioner warned of “gross violations and abuses” including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, forced displacement, and sexual violence against children as well as adults. The UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict has repeatedly expressed alarm about widespread rape and sexual violence in Tigray, “with a cruelty that is beyond comprehension,” including gang rape by men in uniform.

Faced with evidence of such widespread abuses, the Human Rights Council should not remain silent. A resolution to consider the Tigray crisis is the bare minimum needed to bring the situation onto its agenda, a step already long overdue.

Regional and international investigations are currently underway – including one launched by the UN high commissioner. But without a resolution enabling her to present the results of the investigation, the council will have no opportunity to consider its findings.

Ethiopia’s attorney general told the council that the results of the investigation would be made public, and that a resolution to discuss the findings at this stage would “undermine the integrity” of the process. But the draft text simply allows the council to receive an update from the high commissioner so that it can discuss the situation without prejudging or interfering with any ongoing investigations.

Given the evolving security situation and restrictions on communications and access to Tigray, the Human Rights Council needs to adopt the proposed resolution so that it can receive and consider timely facts and fulfill its mandate to prevent further atrocities. After eight months of waiting, victims in Tigray deserve nothing less.

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